The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 67 — We can't talk about shoes today

We just can't. Is what it is.

Good morning, family. Welcome back to the Kicks You Wear. Thank you, as always, for giving me a little bit of your time on this Monday morning.

A reminder — today’s newsletter will be our last until June 15. I’ll be unplugging and decompressing for a bit. I’ll miss y’all, but I promise I’ll come back much better.

With that out the way, let’s go.

Sneakers aren’t important today

(Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash)

So, listen. This is a newsletter about sneakers and how they intersect with the world around us. But today sneakers don’t matter. They really don’t.

The reason why is simple: People still don’t seem to believe that black life matters in this country. And that’s more important today than anything else I could ever write about in this newsletter today.

Black life in America continues to be devalued — particularly by police officers who are sworn to protect. Mass protests popped up across most major cities in the country over the weekend recognizing the killings of three people in particular:

  • George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin last week when he used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for over eight minutes.

  • Breonna Taylor, an unarmed black woman who was shot seven times and killed by Louisville police officers in her own home.

  • Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was followed and killed by Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael — two white men — while jogging through a Georgia neighborhood.

Jogging. Chilling at home. Chilling outside. All three instancesqp resulted in murder. And that’s not right. That’s why people are protesting. That’s why people are rioting. Enough is enough.

These killings are senseless. They shouldn’t have happened. All three of these people should still be alive and with us today. Yet, here we are. They aren’t. And chaos ensues because of it. And the wildest part of it all? It’s that this feels normal for us. This is America.

  • It was just about five years ago that people rioted in the streets of Baltimore because of Freddie Gray’s death.

  • A little bit before that, Tamir Rice. A bit before that, Mike Brown and Ferguson. A bit before that, Eric Garner. You see what’s happening here by now.

  • There are so many more names in between that time that I just simply don't have the space to include here. And thats insane.

This is the black existence here in this country. It’s a life where you can be extinguished simply for being a child with a toy gun or for selling loose cigarettes on the street or for being in your own home or for jogging.

It’s exhausting. And this is what we have to wake up and face every single day. Slate’s Julia Craven spells it out perfectly here.

It feels like 2014. I’m watching the uprising following Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer unfold online, from my back porch, nestled in a secluded part of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Cigarette in my mouth, rage in my soul, I’m far away from Ferguson, but the pain, anger, and sadness feels like home. It’s a trauma familiar to myself and so many other Black folks, who carry it every day.

The sickest part of it is that for most of us, it’s not even us we’re worried about. It’s the people we love.

  • For me? I have a 16 year old brother who is big, black, tall and strong and is already perceived as a threat without even having lived any type of a life.

  • As I type this I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face just at the mere thought of something happening to this boy. But the reality is that it can happen to him. To me. Any single one of us. For no reason at all.

When we turn on the news and see George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery and read their stories, we see us. We read about us. We see what could happen. And we just want it to stop.

We ask peacefully and we’re called a “son of a bitch.” We ask with force and our lives are threatened. The truth is people just don’t want to hear us. They’d rather ignore this pain.

But there’s no ignoring this. Not at a time where wealth gaps between black folks and their white counterparts are accentuated. Not in the middle of a pandemic where black folks are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. No, not anymore.

It’s time for people to listen. No isn’t an option. If that wasn’t clear before this weekend, it certainly is now. This is generations of pain boiling over. There's no ignoring this.

I hope that, now, we have your attention.


That Nike x Adidas statement is not good enough

(Photo by David Ramos on Unsplash)

There were so many major corporations that put out statements this weekend disavowing racism and most of them felt worthless.

That includes Nike’s “Don’t do it” video. It was the bare minimum. It called for people to stop acting like racism doesn’t exist and “don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America.”

Adidas joined in with a quote tweet, saying “together is how we move forward, together is how we make change.”

These tweets would all be fine if we weren’t living in the moment that we’re currently in. But we’re here. And because we're here, they don't go far enough.

  • They’re asking for the bare minimum. Don’t ignore racism. Don’t act like America doesn’t have a problem. Don’t act like people aren’t dying. Duh. These are things we should be doing anyway. Sorry, but you don't get points for that.

  • The more effective statements are specific. You’ll see the word “police.” You’ll see “black and brown” or “African American.” None of that is in this Nike video. None of that is in Adidas’ tweet. Last I checked, that’s why we’re here. That’s the issue of the day.

Without those important elements, statements like this one become cop outs. They’re checking the box and making sure you’re in the clear.

Sure, systematic racism is a problem. That's the reason that’s a problem why the cop who killed Floyd has a chance to walk unscathed. But systematic racism didn’t jam a knee into Floyd’s neck. Derek Chauvin did. Talk about that.

Change doesn’t come from pleasing everyone. People have to be faced with uncomfortable truths to eventually accept that the way we’re living is wrong. And you don’t get that from generic, blanket statements.

Is it Nike’s job to do that? No, maybe not. But if you feel that way, why put out a statement in the first place? You've added nothing of value.

Just, uh, don't do it.

An amazing thread

This newsletter exists because I love sneakers. And I wanted to express that love to an audience that would get that — no matter how big or small.

I wanted to talk about this culture that we live in and the intricacies of it. The intersections are always so fascinating, whether it’s in sports or business or tech or health care or whatever else.

But to talk about those things we also have to talk about their origins. And, when it comes to the origin of sneakers in the culture, black America plays an essential part.

It’s especially important to recognize that today when black America is in so much pain. I wanted to do that here, but I couldn’t have done it any better than my guy Luis Torres did over at Nice Kicks.

He put his words into a thread that starts right here.

It’s an excellent thread. He continues on to name a number of black creatives that have helped blossom the sneaker industry into what it is today.

Michael Jordan, Kanye West, Run DMC, Virgil, Travis Scott, Vashtie, Sheryl Swoopes, Dawn Staley — and that’s just a few. It’s an excellent thread that’s definitely worth your time in checking out.

The single most important tweet might’ve been the simplest one.

That’s it. That’s the tweet. Shouts to Luis. Thank you, my G.

One last thing to leave you with

Remember earlier in the newsletter when I said this was generational pain? Well, here’s what that looks like.

That conversation he’s having with that kid? That’s common for us. That’s what this is. Take that in. Remember it. Never let it go.

What’s droppin’, bruh

Since I’ll be out until the 15th so today’s list stretches through that date.

That’s a wrap for Monday, family. I’m going to take off for a bit and try to recharge. I love y’all. Please, stay safe out here — especially if you’re taking part in any protests.

Don’t forget to tell your friends to subscribe to the Kicks You Wear. When we get back, we’ll probably be at a stack! There’s some good news for us!

Anyway, family. I love you and I’ll miss you. As always, peace and love. Be easy. Be well. Be kind.

Signing off.

Sykes 💯